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El Dorado

14.
The Chief
He had not actually fainted, but the exertion of that long run had rendered him
partially unconscious He knew now that be was safe, that he was sitting in
Blakeney's room, and that something hot and vivifying was being poured down
his throat.
"Percy, they have arrested her!" he said, panting, as soon as speech returned to
his paralysed tongue.
"All right. Don't talk now. Wait till you are better."
With infinite care and gentleness Blakeney arranged some cushions under
Armand's head, turned the sofa towards the fire, and anon brought his friend a
cup of hot coffee, which the latter drank with avidity.
He was really too exhausted to speak. He had contrived to tell Blakeney, and
now Blakeney knew, so everything would be all right. The inevitable reaction was
asserting itself; the muscles had relaxed, the nerves were numbed, and Armand
lay back on the sofa with eyes half closed, unable to move, yet feeling his
strength gradually returning to him, his vitality asserting itself, all the feverish
excitement of the past twenty-four hours yielding at last to a calmer mood.
Through his half-closed eyes he could see his brother-in-law moving about the
room. Blakeney was fully dressed. In a sleepy kind of way Armand wondered if
he had been to bed at aH; certainly his clothes set on him with their usual well-
tailored perfection, and there was no suggestion in his brisk step and alert
movements that he had passed a sleepless night.
Now he was standing by the open window. Armand, from where he lay, could
see his broad shoulders sharply outlined against the grey background of the hazy
winter dawn. A wan light was just creeping up from the east over the city; the
noises of the streets below came distinctly to Armand's ear.
He roused himself with one vigorous effort from his lethargy, feeling quite
ashamed of himself and of this breakdown of his nervous system. He looked with
frank admiration on Sir Percy, who stood immovable and silent by the window--a
perfect tower of strength, serene and impassive, yet kindly in distress.
"Percy," said the young man, "I ran all the way from the top of the Rue St.
Honore. I was only breathless. I am quite all right. May I tell you all about it?"
Without a word Blakeney closed the window and came across to the sofa; he sat
down beside Armand, and to all outward appearances he was nothing now but a
kind and sympathetic listener to a friend's tale of woe. Not a line in his face or a
look in his eyes betrayed the thoughts of the leader who had been thwarted at
the outset of a dangerous enterprise, or of the man, accustomed to command,
who had been so flagrantly disobeyed.
Armand, unconscious of all save of Jeanne and of her immediate need, put an
eager hand on Percy's arm.
"Heron and his hell-hounds went back to her lodgings last night," he said,
speaking as if he were still a little out of breath. "They hoped to get me, no doubt;
not finding me there, they took her. Oh, my God!"
 
 
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